After two days of rain delays, the Baltimore Orioles return to the field against the Pirates, and with one of their stars back to boot, as the team activated third baseman Manny Machado off the disabled list. He will reportedly not be in the starting lineup for the first game of the day but is expected to start Game 2. Steve Lombardozzi has been optioned down to Triple-A Norfolk in a corresponding move, according to CSNMA’s Rich Dubroff. Machado had slowly been progressing through his rehabilitation following left knee surgery that resulted from a gruesome accident late last September.
The 21-year-old third baseman appeared in 156 games for the Orioles last season, leading the American League with 667 at-bats and 51 doubles before seeing his season cut short with just a few games to go. He hit .283/.314/.432 in his first full season in the Major Leagues, landing an appearance in the All-Star Game and taking home his first Gold Glove award. The stellar defensive play and offensive production cemented him as one of the top young players in baseball and a cornerstone of Baltimore’s hopes for the future.
Initial estimations suggested that Machado might be ready to go for Opening Day, but after he was slowed at the start of spring training, the team took a cautious approach to his rehabilitation. He continued strengthening the knee and abiding by the recommendations of team doctors before finally beginning a rehab assignment with their Class-A Frederick affiliate. In three games, he impressed at the plate, collecting eight hits in 12 at-bats, including five for extra bases (four doubles, one triple). Aspects of Machado’s game may be slow to recover initially, particularly his ability to make quick turns in the field, but having him back in the lineup should do wonders for a Baltimore offense that’s continued to surprise through the season’s first month. It will also lengthen the Orioles bench, allowing both Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop to be more available off the bench and in late-game situations. Lombardozzi, meanwhile, got the demotion to Triple-A after hitting .292/.301/.333 in 73 plate appearances. Lombardozzi, who was acquired from Detroit in the offseason, started 17 games at second base; with Flaherty now the backup first baseman as a result of Chris Davis' injury, second base will likely be a rotation between Schoop and Jemile Weeks.